Apple Makes Screen Time API Available to Third-Party Developers

With the launch of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, Apple is making its Screen Time API available to third-party developers, which will let official Screen Time data be used in parental control apps.

apple screen time screen icons
Apple first unveiled Screen Time in the iOS 12 update that was released in 2018, allowing users to keep track of the amount of time spent in iOS apps. Parents were also able to use Screen Time for Parental Control purposes, limiting apps and device usage.

Since launch, Screen Time has been built directly into the iPhone and no APIs or SDKs have been made available to developers prior to now, which app developers have not been happy with. That's set to change with ‌iOS 15‌. From Apple's iOS 15 features page:

Developers can use the Screen Time API in parental controls apps to support an even wider range of tools for parents. The API provides developers with key features like core restrictions and device activity monitoring, all in a way that puts privacy first.

Ahead of when Apple launched Screen Time, it started banning many parental control apps that used Mobile Device Management to let parents control iOS devices belonging to their children. The change led to antitrust issues for Apple following complaints from developers that made parental control apps.

In 2019, developers petitioned Apple to release a Screen Time API that would let them access the same functionalities that are available with the built-in Screen Time feature to level the playing field. Apple may have finally implemented the feature to ease some of the antitrust scrutiny that it is facing from lawmakers in various countries.

Related Roundups: iOS 15, iPadOS 15
Related Forum: iOS 15

Top Rated Comments

Jynto Avatar
16 months ago
I would say it's about damn time! Screen Time only stores a limited amount of your data (3-4 weeks) with no option to keep it for longer. Everything older than that gets automatically deleted.

I for one would like to be able to look at my long-term trends the same way as I do with Health (I know storage space may be a concern, but c'mon Apple, my Health DB is half a gigabyte!) and if Apple can't provide that option themselves, they can at least make it possible for some other app to export it as a CSV and display lovely graphs and stuff that go back multiple months.

This should have been in the first release of Screen Time.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
_Spinn_ Avatar
16 months ago
This should be very useful for devs. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ? Avatar
16 months ago
Wonder what kind of brilliant ideas developers will come up with.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JKAussieSkater Avatar
16 months ago
I hope this means 3rd parties can patch the flaws Apple didn’t bother with.

* You can’t limit specific Apps to specific times of the day (e.g. No Instagram during work/school hours) — Currently you can only specify “downtime” which affects all apps simultaneously, and “downtime” itself can only be specified for 1 period a day.
* You can’t disable apps on certain days of the week (e.g. No YouTube until the weekend) — Currently you can limit the maximum use time of an app to “1 minute a day” but not zero minutes. This means a lot of essentially blocked apps aren’t shadowed on the home screen, and it’s not clear which apps are actually available without restrictions.
* You can’t restrict time or disable iMessage extensions/iMessage games.
* You can redownload apps a parent has deleted from the App Store without a parent’s permission (because it’s “already been purchased”). — This, in tandem with “cannot restrict apps to zero minutes a day” means that children can redownload all deleted games within the first minute of the next day, and those apps aren’t restricted.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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